Focus in wh-questions : Evidence from Italian

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Bocci , G , Bianchi , V & Cruschina , S 2021 , ' Focus in wh-questions : Evidence from Italian ' , Natural Language and Linguistic Theory , vol. 39 , no. 2 , pp. 405-455 .

Title: Focus in wh-questions : Evidence from Italian
Author: Bocci, Giuliano; Bianchi, Valentina; Cruschina, Silvio
Contributor organization: Italian Philology
Date: 2021-05
Language: eng
Number of pages: 51
Belongs to series: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
ISSN: 0167-806X
Abstract: This paper addresses two long-standing issues concerning focus: first, the question of whether the focal interpretation is directly read off the prosodic structure of a sentence, or it is rather mediated by a [focus] feature encoded in the syntactic representation; second, whether interrogativewh-phrases are inherently endowed with a [focus] feature. We provide evidence from two prosodic experiments on directwh-questions in Italian, showing that the Nuclear Pitch Accent (NPA) and main stress fall on the lexical verb, without a concomitant focal interpretation of the latter. Furthermore, we show that NPA assignment is sensitive to the derivational history of thewh-phrase under short-distance vs. long-distance extraction. We account for the observed NPA distribution in terms of a [focus] feature which is bundled with the [wh] in direct questions, and is specified on each phase head that hosts in its edge one link of thewh-chain. Thus, v degrees is specified for the feature bundle {wh, focus} and attracts the assignment of the NPA, which is then realized on the lexical verb. Our findings, thus, cast doubt on the direct association between prosodic prominence and a focal interpretation.
Subject: wh-questions
Nuclear pitch accent
Main stress
Successive cyclic derivation
6121 Languages
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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